Updated: Apr 6, 2020
We only had two days left of training and one day left of morning practice. I pushed hard this time, wanting to go out with a bang, but I was exhausted from being up late the night before. I had trouble sleeping after that interview. I wasn't upset, but my head wouldn't shut up. I kept thinking about anything and everything, ranging from my childhood to the past three weeks in Bali. I was so thankful that our morning practices were complete. I was honestly completely done with the heat and humidity and was eager to be at home in my own bed. I would miss the lush green scenery, but was thoroughly looking forward to wearing my sweater and driving through the snow.
Lola, Myself, & Pauline (From Singapore)
That evening, Lola asked me to accompany her to a show at the temple at the end of our path. I wasn't exactly sure what kind of show it would be, but I was intrigued to see what music theatre looked like in Bali. This really interests me because I am a singer, dancer and actress myself, and am involved in music theatre in Canada. We decided to skip dinner at 308 Kiss Me and wander into town a bit early. We stopped at a beautiful restaurant and had some fajitas. My anxiety rose as we waited. The food took forever, and the show was set to start soon. When we were finally served, I found the food to be underwhelming but I ate it anyway. We had a show to catch!
The Opening Prayer Before the Show
We quickly paid for our meals and made our way to the temple. The temple was set up in the style of Theatre-in-the-Round, allowing all audience members an equally clear view of the action, and we found a seat on the second level of the scaffolding. The show was called “Kecak Ramayana & Fire Dance.” The stage was lit by large lights illuminating the entire stage in the dark. We held our breath as a man with a torch entered the arena. As we watched, he touched the flame to a ceremonial statue in the centre of the circle. This would be the centrepiece of the entire show. A man came out and sat facing the statue. He uttered a short Balinese prayer and the stage went dark. A voice announced the beginning of the show and thanked the audience for coming.
As we sat eagerly awaiting the start of the show, a chorus of male voices swept out from inside the building surrounding the stage. The singing continued for about a minute and then an ensemble of men came down the stairs and entered the stage. They were all making different sounds that intermingled to form a wall of sound. There was a rhythmic line that sounded like “check check” punctuated by bass and tenor voices, and all of them were guided by a leader chiming in between verses. The ensemble moved in absolutely perfect formation. Their lines were bone-straight and their transitions were extremely well coordinated. I was thoroughly impressed with this as I know how difficult it can be to get choreography right.
Throughout the show, the ensemble stayed on stage, singing their “check check” song, while the main character action revolved around the central statue. The story was a simple love story. A princess fell for a man, but her father, the evil King, would not allow them to be together and came to take the Princess away. Eventually the male love interest and a Monkey-Man teamed up to fight the evil King, and they won. The man and Princess were married and of course lived happily ever after. The lead characters' movements were very well done. The men were rigid and precise, the women elegant. Their movements were not exactly what we would expect to see in Canadian theatre. They had their own unique style that was more like movement into and out of tableau, giving the audience the picture of the scene. The show was in their native Balinese tongue, but from the tableau pictures, the audience understood the story fully. One man in the ensemble caught my attention and kept me focused on him. He was clearly enjoying himself, had a huge smile on his face, and was bobbing in his cross-legged seat for the duration of the entire show. It was both endearing and entertaining to watch.
After the main show was complete, a secondary show commenced. The man who announced the show emptied a large sack filled with coconut shells into the centre of the stage. The man set the shells alight as another man in a horse-like costume entered the arena. He circled the fire numerous times as the ensemble sang, then suddenly, he faced the flame and ran directly through the fire. The entire crowd gasped simultaneously. We held our collective breath as he turned around and ran back through the fire, kicking the burning coconut shells and scattering them around the stage. He stood back while two men swept the shells back into the centre of the stage, then repeated his "fire dance" five times until the fire had burned down to mere coals. When complete, he sat and bowed in front of the dying embers. The crowd went absolutely wild. What a show! His feet were blackened and he was covered in sweat after his display of courage and strength.
I was so thrilled to have seen a Balinese musical. It was amazing to see the different-yet-similar styles of Balinese and western theatre. Lola and I left the temple feeling very satisfied with our evening. Lola decided to call it a night, so I made my way to a cafe on our path and grabbed a panini for a late bite. Before calling it a night, I Facetimed my mom, excited to tell her all about the show that night and for her to watch the videos. I knew she would find it just as fascinating as I did.
The View from the Campuhan Ridge Walk
On the final morning, instead of our usual practice, we took a meditation walk. This, I found out, was a silent trek that allowed us to get acquainted with our thoughts. The route that YogaUnion chose was along the 'Campuhan Ridge Walk'. We followed the retreat path out to the main road, down the way a bit and then turned onto the path to the ridge. As we walked, Alona, my crazy Ukranian friend, stepped out onto the road, and all I could think was, “this silly girl is going to get taken OUT!” I motioned to her to get her butt back on the sidewalk. She looked a little puzzled, but I felt more at ease. The path itself was pretty dilapidated. Chunks of bricks were missing and the spaces between them were very uneven. It took us down a set of stairs along a rushing river, and then up what felt like a million uneven steps along a ravine. At this point my lungs started to wheeze as I tried to keep up to the group. I tried to get my heavy breathing under control as I wondered if I would require my puffer.
Once we reached the top of the steps and the path started to even out, my wheezing settled and I became aware of the incredible view around me. There were lush tropical greens all around us and palm trees covering the landscape. The ravine was an incredible sight as well, with rich flora the entire way down the slope and a river gently running through the bottom. We continued to venture along the trail until we reached the end of the ridge walk and came into a small village. There, we checked out some artwork by local artists, various shops, and the views of the scenery. I found a beautiful flower laid out on a rock. The flowers here are absolutely magnificent. We spent some time there and took some photos of the group, and then made our way back down the path. I walked really fast and felt like I could almost run. It was like the entire walk there was my warm up and the way back was the real workout. I power walked down the stairs and then back up the hill to our path. I was breathing heavily by the time I got back to my guest house, but I could have gone further and I was no longer wheezing.
A Portion of the Group on the Campuhan Ridge Walk
We still had some time before our Asana Analysis class, so I dipped my feet in the pool for the last time and enjoyed the view. During class we learned the last and most difficult of the Asanas in our manual. As we went through each Asana, students went up to the front to demonstrate. The last pose we learned was scorpion, as it is the most difficult. When no other student wanted to go up and try it, I volunteered, having no idea what would happen. I was positive that I wouldn't be able to do it, but I went up to the front to try anyway.
Himanshu gave me a strap to wrap around my upper arms to keep them from swaying out. I set my arms up on the floor and kicked my legs into the air. Himanshu helped me get my legs up straight and the entire class cheered me on. I worked hard to look forward as much as possible and bend my legs towards my head. I held it for a second before I told him I was done and he helped me out of it. My shoulders were absolutely screaming and I was slightly terrified, but I was very proud of myself for persevering through my fear and completing the Asana.
Me in a Scorpion Pose (With Assistance)
Our final class that day was a review of philosophy and anatomy in preparation for our exam in two days. Before leaving the Shala that afternoon, I took another series of photos to commemorate the enchanting view. It was truly stunning. Tropical plants, lush green rice fields, beautiful palm trees, and pink and purple flowers surrounded the shelter. I took some time to let it soak in. I spent that evening studying and relaxing with the ladies at my guest house. Despite the pressure of the impending test, I wasn’t nervous for the exam; I had memorized many Asanas along with quite a bit of the philosophy terminology. I also felt well-versed in the anatomy portion of the exam, so I knew I would pass. YogaUnion had a policy where they did not reveal the numerical score of the exam, but simply chose to give a pass or fail. To pass the student needed to achieve a minimum of 75%. I went to sleep that night feeling confident.
The Lush Greenery Surrounding the Yoga Shala
The next morning would not be a full rest day. YogaUnion had another tradition of practicing 108 Sun Salutations on the final Sunday before exams. This practice would take place in the morning and represented the change that each one of us had endured during our stay in Bali. I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to complete all 108 Sun Salutations, but Spyros assured us that we only had to go as far as we could handle. The morning air was incredibly warm and humid as all of us Yogis gathered in the large Shala for our final practice together. Spyros stressed that this experience was not just about one of us, that we were not alone, that it was a group experience. He said that we may find ourselves getting into a groove with other Yogis and flowing with each other's energies. He also explained that we would complete Sun Salutation A, for which I was very thankful, as it does not include Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1) pose and would have been much longer and more difficult to complete.
Me During 108 Sun Salutations (Peep the Sunburn!)
We began, and as much as I wanted to feel everyone's energy, I simply could not. I was my typical cranky morning self and felt very much alone, despite being surrounded by new friends. Almost immediately, I began to perspire, sweat dripping down every limb and feature of my face. I pushed as hard as I could and made it through approximately 50 Sun Salutations, but by that point my arms and lungs gave out, so I drank some water on my mat while everyone else completed the Salutations. I shed a few tears thinking about how hard I had worked and how much I had been through in the past three weeks. I cried because I would miss my new friends and the wonderful teachers I had met. I cried because I was desperate to get home to my bed and the cool climate. I cried because I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. As everyone finished their 108th Salutation, Spyros let us know that we had made it. He also urged us to be thankful to our parents for bringing us into this world and allowing us to reach that moment. It was then that my tears began in earnest, because I had never felt that way, and despite all of the change I had endured, I still didn't. And I wasn't sure when or if I ever would.
The Entire Group After 108 Sun Salutations